Mahathir says Lee Kuan Yew ‘not that clever’
Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (right) has accused Singapore’s elder statesman Lee Kuan Yew (left) of hypocrisy for claiming that Malaysia’s ethnic Chinese minority was being marginalised, news reports said Sept 23. Photos: AP
KUALA LUMPUR (AP) – Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has accused Singapore’s elder statesman Lee Kuan Yew of hypocrisy for claiming that Malaysia’s ethnic Chinese minority was being marginalised, news reports said Saturday.”You are not that clever. In a small group, perhaps you seem clever,” Mahathir said, referring to Lee late Friday in a speech to supporters in northeastern Terengganu state.
“But when (Lee) goes to China, the Chinese there don’t want to listen to him.
“The Chinese in China don’t think much of him and it is a fact that he is marginalised by Chinese in the world,” Mahathir was quoted as saying by the national news agency, Bernama.
Lee, the founding father of Singapore, was reported to have said recently that Singapore’s neighbours – such as Malaysia and Indonesia – “have problems with their Chinese.”
“They are successful. They are hardworking and, therefore, they are systematically marginalised,” Lee was widely quoted as saying.
Around a quarter of Malaysia’s 26 million citizens are ethnic Chinese.
Malaysia maintains a decades-old affirmative action policy that helps the Malay majority, which it says is necessary to maintain social order.
Mahathir – a frequent critic of Singapore before he retired in 2003 after 22 years in power – said Lee should reflect on how the city-state, whose population is predominantly ethnic Chinese, is treating its Malay minority before criticising Malaysia.
“We should have an independent investigation on why the Malays are left behind in Singapore,” Mahathir said.
“They are pressured, marginalised and oppressed. That is the kind of government founded on the views of Lee Kuan Yew.”
Mahathir’s aides could not immediately be contacted to confirm his comments.
Malaysia’s top ethnic Chinese government politician, Ong Ka Ting, the president of the Malaysian Chinese Association party, also rejected Lee’s statements Friday, saying Malaysians “cannot let a remark like that create unnecessary disharmony or suspicion.”
“As a former Prime Minister, (Lee) should realise that such a remark will have a negative impact on (relations with) the neighbouring countries,” said Ong, whose party is the second largest group in Malaysia’s ruling coalition after the United Malays National Organisation. UMNO is headed by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Malaysia and Singapore have close cultural and economic ties.
But their governments have sparred over various disputes, such as the price of water that Malaysia sells to its southern neighbour, and have even taken a dispute over a tiny islet to the World Court.